Kinda Fairly Extremely recently, we’ve talked some about A/B testing and the wonders it’ll do for your email marketing program. And while you can do A/B testing for a boatload of creative and design concepts with your emails, let’s focus more on perhaps the most important part of the email: the subject line.

Why is this at the top of the list? Because it’s the first thing your subscribers will see. And if the subject line doesn’t tickle their fancy right off the bat, you’re already treading in perilous waters. The kind with sharks or piranhas (the James Cameron kind).

We’ve got what we call a white paper in our ‘hood on the subject of testing, and we highly suggest you check it out …


… and, hey, it costs you nothing! Go buy an ice coffee with that money or a slice of ‘za.

5. Use Action-Oriented Vernacular

Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, may she ever rest in peace, once advised that you “check your vernacular” (after which she’d get back to ya, but we’re just focusing on the “vernacular” part). If your email is for some sort of sale or product launch or anything that involves a transaction of cool, cool dollars — try using subject lines that create a sense of urgency for what you’re selling.

Comes with a free pound of Parmesan!

Notice the trigger words we used here. We told you what you were getting, the rarity of it, and that it doesn’t last long. This formula can be mixed and matched and moved around to serve whatever you’re selling.

There’s just one thing wrong with it. (Okay — there are a ton of things wrong with it, but let’s not stop the ball once it’s rolling.)

4. Shorter Is Better

You can only have so many characters in your subject line and, even then, it’s silly to feel like you need to use the entire space. In fact, we advise against doing so.

Because we live in an age where information hits us faster than even ludicrous speed, it’s important to grab your subscribers’ attention immediately and in a concise fashion. So while the above cry was very descriptive, it was far too long.


So take some time when it comes to writing your subject lines. We advise keeping a 50 character limit. Rewrite and edit and cut until you feel comfortable with the length and copy. And remember: We’re testing here, so come up with multiple variations, or even completely different lines. The goal is to find the one that gets your subscribers to open what you’re sending.

3. Review Past Successes

So now you have the basics down, but you’ve hit a creative or strategic block when it comes to crafting your subject line. Don’t worry about it: Look at what’s worked for you in the past.

Check the analytics you have hanging around on open-rates, conversions, and click throughs on campaigns that have straight killed it in the past. Heck, take it a step further: Look at campaigns that didn’t do so spectacularly; check for things like unsubscribes and opt outs.

100%25 unsubscribe rate.

Use this treasure trove of knowledge to zero in on subject lines that seemed to do pretty well. Even look for commonalities like specific words, or punctuation. They may seem tiny, but you never know when a single word could be the difference between a successful campaign and one that’s going nowhere fast.

2. Be Aware Of Spam Filters

Our Director of Deliverability gave a pretty good breakdown on avoiding spam filters. It’s a good quick read and we recommend you giving it a look.


But we’ll give you a quick crash course anyway because, hey, you’re already here. In a nutshell there are two big factors that determine if you’re heading for a subscriber’s spam box or not. The first one, perhaps obviously, is word choice. Because of the nature of today’s spam filters, it’s not exactly easy to nail down a comprehensive vocab list. This is in part due to the fact that that list is ever-changing. Still, some style choices like ALL CAPS AND EXCESSIVE EXCLAMATION POINTS CAN FILTER OUT YOUR EMAILS!!!!!!!! If you want some good examples of what will get you tossed in the spam jail, you have a great resource easily at your disposal: Your own spam box. Just perusing the first page of that can get you cued in on what isn’t passing for normal subject lines these days.

Sorry, Addison.

The second factor to keep in mind is that today’s spam filters take engagement into consideration. If you’re sending crisp, fresh-to-death emails that people are opening and clicking on, then you’ll be square. If your subscribers aren’t opening or are immediately reporting your sends as spam, then your email market program is in huge trouble.

1. First Impressions Are Important

You’ve been hearing this your entire life. Appear knowledgeable and confident in job interviews. Don’t annoy your teacher on the first day of class. Don’t order chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese on a first date.

"Would you mind just getting a water, too? Also, paying? I left my wallet at home."

Why? Because the first impression someone gets of you is going to be a deciding figure in whether you’re worth their time or not. The same holds true with for your subscribers. When people subscribe to your email list, your welcome email’s subject line should make a splash, not miss the pool. Make sure you grab their attention right off the bat. If a subscriber has filled out some preferences, go ahead and send them something relevant. Is there a call-to-action involved? Make sure they know, and don’t be annoying about it.